How do you start Memorial Day weekend at the Jersey Shore?
With a salute to Jersey girls, of course. That’s what Tim McGraw did at his season-opening concert Friday, May 27, at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. The country superstar turned his hit “Southern Girl” into “Jersey Girl.”
The 15,000 or so in the audience loved it.
“I’ve met a few Jersey girls in my life — a long time ago,” said McGraw, who’s married to fellow country superstar Faith Hill.
Hill did not make an appearance at the show — except for the “Faith” tattoo on McGraw’s right shoulder. It was all McGraw on Friday, with his big shoulders and belt buckle. Yet, the out-sized country image belies a sensitivity — this is a guy who understands the frailties of life.
Take his “Live Like You Were Dying,” written for his late father, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies star Tug McGraw, who died in 2004 at the age of 59. Seize the day, because the day is short.
As the song ended, McGraw tapped his thigh much like the way his dad would at the end of an inning. “Humble and Kind” was dedicated to Texas, where a May 19 school shooting there took the lives of 21.
McGraw is best on ballads — that’s where his full and sonorous tenor shines. His recent single, “The Cowboy in Me,” presented with clips of TV’s “Yellowstone,” nicely framed McGraw’s stirring vocals.
But this was a party, and McGraw brought along a few friends out for the fun. Show openers Russell Dickerson, Alexandra Kay and Brandon Davis joined him on stage for “I Life It, I Love It,” and Danny Clinch, the Toms River photographer of the stars, joined in on “Indian Outlaw.”
Clinch plays a mean harmonica, and he literally put down his camera to play.
“Damn, he’s good,” McGraw said of Clinch.
Fans also spoke favorably of the new amenities at the venue.
John Crivelli of Hillsborough downed a Questlove Impossible Cheesesteak.
“They didn’t have a regular cheesesteak, just the Impossible,” Crivelli said. “Listen, we both teach — it was good as the school food.”
The venue updated and expanded the restrooms last season.
“The updates to the bathroom have been great.” Crivelli said.
Caitlin Nichols of Great Meadows enjoyed a watermelon margarita that had a pink cowboy hat mixer in the concourse before McGraw’s set. Nichols and companion Seth Leonard of Gettysburg, Pa., gave the experience two thumbs up.
The Lumineers bring their Brightside Word Tour to the venue on Saturday, May 28.
Tim McGraw setlist
- How Bad Do You Want It
- Something Like That
- Down on the Farm
- Just to See You Smile
- Southern Girl
- Don’t Take the Girl
- 7500 OBO
- Memory Lane
- Over and Over
- Shotgun Rider
- Where the Green Grass Grows
- Better Than I Used to Be
- One of Those Nights
- Felt Good on My Lips
- Real Good Man
- Truck Yeah
- I Like It, I Love It
- Live Like You Were Dying
- The Cowboy in Me
- Indian Outlaw
- Humble and Kind
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Chris Jordan, a Jersey Shore native, covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; email@example.com.